Tag Archive | "china"

IDF 2013: Intel pins hopes on convertible laptops resurrecting PC sales

IDF 2013: Intel pins hopes on convertible laptops resurrecting PC sales

Intel is banking on the ‘new’ 2-in-1 convertible laptop category to arrest the slump in PC sales and turn the tide on the tablet.

This year’s Intel Developer Forum (IDF) is all about mobility, but it’s not just the new Intel Atom Bay Trail tablets that are stealing the show – Intel also wants hybrid laptop/tablet devices to capture the public’s consciousness.

“Think about a world where there’s really three kinds of categories in mobile computing,” said Kirk Skaugen, Senior VP of Intel’s Client Group. “There’s the standard tablets – 7,8 and 10-inch slates – and we have our traditional notebook families. What we’re doing now is saying we can create a new category that combines the best of a laptop and the best of a tablet in a single device.”

Now, it seems rather churlish to point out that actually 2-in-1 laptops have been around for years – I’ve been carrying a touchscreen, flipscreen Acer notebook to IDF for since 2010 – but finally the ecosystem is catching up with what we actually want from such devices.

Size demands

Like the ultra-portables, there’s a minimum spec for these new 2-in-1 machines.

First off they’ve got to have a 10-inch, or larger, screen. “Screen sizes that don’t compromise the productivity of a laptop,” explains Skaugen. They will also ideally have an integrated keyboard design, though that’s not a deal-breaker in itself.

What is though, is the operating system – it has to be a full OS. And Skaugen was quite specific about that: “Not Windows RT – to give you the full x86 compatibility that the PC industry is known to love.”

Unlike the ultra-portables though, 2-in-1s aren’t just designed to be the elite of laptops. Sure, there will be Haswell-based, Ultrabook-like 2-in-1s, but there will also be lower-end Bay Trail-powered options. “These aren’t just going to be premium devices,” he continued “You’ll see these 2-in-1 devices from $999 all the way down to $349 by the holidays.”

I asked Doug Fisher, VP of Intel’s Software and Services group if the 2-in-1s were being set up to arrest the decline of the PC market versus tablets. “Absolutely,” he answered. “Some people want a tablet and we want to address that market. But there is a desire – and I fall right into that camp – I do like to have a tablet but I really need a creation device.

Doug Fisher

“I like both experiences, but I’m starting to get to the point where I want to carry one device, but at this stage I’m carrying multiple devices. So I really do look forward to having a tablet when I want it and a laptop when I need.”

The big trick though, especially with such a wide price range, is ensuring the lower-end doesn’t poison perception of the entire category. Intel is making sure there are minimum specs devices have to hit, such as a touch responsiveness of around 200ms, responsiveness out of sleep, boot times and full, nine-hour battery life.

PC market boost

Intel is really hoping this refreshed, if not exactly new, category can give the PC market a much-needed shot in the arm. It points to a small research sample across the US and China which found 48% of people buying a 2-in-1 device would have bought a 10-inch tablet if they weren’t around.

It’s a small sample, and tablet buyers aren’t going away, but so long as they’re quality, desirable products, 2-in-1s could wrestle some market share back.

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IFA 2013: Lenovo Vibe X’s 5MP front camera makes it perfect for taking selfies

IFA 2013: Lenovo Vibe X's 5MP front camera makes it perfect for taking selfies

Lenovo’s bringing all the vibes all the time with a new smartphone that is very, um, Lenovo despite its ‘youthful’ product name, Lenovo Vibe X.

Let’s be fair, it’s quite slim (“as thin as a pencil!” claims Lenovo) and it weighs 121g (“five AA batteries!”) which is a fair bit lighter than, say, the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Its cameras vibe hard, with the front-facing camera rocking a 5MP sensor – the same as some handsets’ main snappers – while the back-mounted one comes in at 13MP.

Lenovo’s press release genuinely says that the front-facing camera with its wide-angle lens “effortlessly captures high-quality self-portraits”. Hashtag selfie.


Other features of note include the Android 4.2 operating system, quad-core 1.5GHz MTK 6589T processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB internal storage.

But really mainly the selfie thing.

Unfortunately, it’s only launching in China and seems unlikely to make it to the US, Europe or Australia. Sorry hipsters.

Also announced today are a slim new full HD tablet in the form of the Lenovo S5000 and an update to the Lenovo K900 smartphone – mainly new colours (orange!) and storage options (16GB! 32GB!).

  • More from IFA 2013 – all the latest news from Berlin in one handy place

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Updated: Next chapter of Amazon Paperwhite e-reader starts Sept. 30

Updated: Next chapter of Amazon Paperwhite e-reader starts Sept. 30

Amazon has outed an all-new Kindle Paperwhite, hours after a listing for the updated e-reader appeared before it was yanked.

Now, it looks like Amazon is putting its foot down on the new and improved Paperwhite. The e-commerce giant left the Paperwhite’s order page – listed as $119 (with special offers) – up for all to gawk at.

Without special offers (a.k.a. ads), the new Paperwhite will retail for $139, though it looks to be U.S.-only for now. The Paperwhite’s price converts to about £76/AU$131 and £89/AU$153, respectively.

We’re not looking at a completely made-over machine here, instead seeing some incremental improvements that should be welcome to readers.

New display tech supposedly boosts the screen’s contrast renders and offers better reflectivity, while a next-gen built-in light helps guide light closer to the screen, translating into less eyestrain.

The processor is 25% faster, so you should be able to breezily flip through pages and look up tip-of-the-tongue definitions. A 19% tighter touch grid supposedly helps the new Paperwhite respond to even the smallest pricks with increased accuracy.

Paper me white

While the outside looks largely the same and there’s not a drastic jump in internals, there are a few software additions that should make the device a better buy than before.

The new Paperwhite (we’re back to trying not to write “Paperweight”) will eventually land with Goodreads integration, offering users a peak at what 20 million-plus users are leafing through plus the ability to rate reads.

Kindle FreeTime for Paperwhite is also on the way, geared towards giving younger readers some age-appropriate incentives to hitting the books.

The new Paperwhite will also feature Smart Lookup, Vocabulary Builder and Kindle Page Flip features.

Update: AllThingsD reported that the new Paperwhite doesn’t say “Kindle” on the rear casing, but instead has “Amazon” inscribed on its backside.

Peter Larsen, Amazon vice president of Kindle product management, told the site the change was due to international recognition ambitions. “Amazon” is apparently more recognized than “Kindle” outside of the U.S., so as the company moves into countries like India, China and Mexico, it wants “Amazon” front (or back) and center.

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In Depth: The future of touchscreens revealed: bigger, cheaper, bendier

In Depth: The future of touchscreens revealed: bigger, cheaper, bendier

At CES this year, we were writing about “monster” 20-inch touchscreens. But by this Christmas, 23-inch and 27-inch touchscreens will be available on the high street, ready to fold down and use for painting or family board games.

Touch is undeniably going big, but it’s still held back by the high prices of adding the touch layer to the screen. There is an answer, though – and tech companies are going for silver to find it.

Touchscreens are made up of multiple layers: the top layer of glass with anti-scratch coating, a layer of clear adhesive and then two or even three layers of indium tin oxide (ITO) either side of more layers of glass comprising the touch sensor, then another clear adhesive layer to hold the touch sensor down onto the LCD underneath.

ITO is the critical ingredient. It’s a good conductor and it’s transparent, but it’s also expensive. It also requires both fragile materials and expensive multi-stage manufacturing processes, and although it can be recycled when supplies are limited, its mostly mined in China in conditions that are far from green.

The ITO powder is “sputtered” over the glass in multiple layers in a vapour deposition chamber, baked onto the glass and then etched into a sensor circuit. Sometimes the glass layer is chemically hardened first, but either way, the layers have to be carefully lined up to work.

The silver solution

But there is a cheaper and less environmentally harmful alternative, developed by MIT biochemist Dr Angela Belcher and inspired by the multi-layered formation of abalone shells. It uses silver nanowires scattered over a sheet of plastic.

The future of touch is bigger, cheaper, bendier - and silver

Take two layers of plastic coated with very long, very thin silver strands (or even one sheet coated on both sides) and you have a capacitive touch sensor that’s thinner, lighter, more flexible and much easier to manufacture than the ITO sensors.

You can’t see through silver, but you don’t need very much of it either. Silver is the same price as ITO, but it’s a hundred times more conductive – it’s even more conductive than gold (so remember that next time someone tries to upsell you on gold-coated connectors).

Because the nanowires connect in a mesh, you can get a full-screen sensor and still have 99% of the screen area clear. That lets through more light than an ITO sensor, so the LCD doesn’t need to be as bright. And given that powering the screen takes 60% of the battery life in most devices, what you get is a thinner, cheaper screen and longer battery life.

The random structure of the nanowire also is harder to see than the regular patterns of other metal meshes, and you don’t have to match it up to the pixel pattern of the LCD to avoid a distracting moir

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No Surface Pro price drop for Australia

No Surface Pro price drop for Australia

Microsoft will not be offering Australians the $100 price cut for its Surface Pro tablet that is being given to residents of Canada, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the US.

Speaking to TechRadar, a Microsoft Australia spokesperson said: “To confirm, between 4 August and 29 August, customers in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the US will pay US$100.00 less for Surface Pro.”

News of the global promotion comes after the company discounted the Surface RT tablet around the world. Australians saw Surface RT prices drop between $100 to $180 across all models, with and without Touch covers.

The Aussie option

Of course, discounts in Australia for the Surface RT came about a week after they were announced for the US and UK, so we may yet eventually see the new promotion here, too.

It should be noted, however, that the Surface Pro only made it to our shores at the end of May, while it had been on sale in the US and Canada since early this year, so chances of a discount are unlikely – even though there are already signs that the company may release Surface tablet refreshes within the next year.

But then again, an Australian parliamentary committee has also suggested we grey import cheaper tech anyway, so maybe an Aussie discount doesn’t matter.

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